- Associated Press - Sunday, January 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - The newly appointed superintendent of Montgomery’s public school system says despite a turbulent past few years and the daunting tasks ahead of her, she’s not overwhelmed by what she’ll need to do to move the district in the right direction.

Earlier this week, the county school board voted unanimously to appoint Margaret Allen as the district’s new superintendent after she served as the district’s interim chief. Allen was signed to a two-year contract with an annual salary of $158,100. She replaces Barbara Thompson, who signed a mutual separation agreement with the district in 2013.

School board President Eleanor Dawkins told the Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/1bpl3mv ) that Allen isn’t a placeholder, but is the right person to help guide the district through a rough patch following a state investigation that found evidence of improper grade changing. Aside from that, the district is also working to get into better financial shape, deal with textbook shortages and address the physical conditions of some of its buildings.

“We have some challenges,” Allen said. “But with every challenge, there is opportunity for positive change. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Allen, a Montgomery native, says she grew up poor and knows the value of education because of the one the district provided her with. She began working with the district 37 years ago as special education teacher and has served as an assistant principal, principal and director of professional development.

During the investigation into improper grade-changing, educators said they were pressured by administrators to inflate grades to lower the district’s failure rate. Issues went unreported in part because teachers and other staffers said they didn’t trust management to listen to their concerns. The state Department of Education probe also found that teachers who did report problems were the target of retaliation from administrators.

In her new role, Allen said she’ll work to bridge the gap between management and in-school staff.

“They refer to us as ‘downtown,’ ” Allen said. “I hear it, and it’s something I want to change. The only way for us to change that is to get out there and see them and let them know what we’re doing. We have to be transparent. That’s what I want, and I want them, when they think of us down here, to think of us by our names, because they’ll know us.”

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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